If you’re a football fan, odds are you’ve now heard that Tony Romo actually broke a bone in his back in the preseason game against the Seahawks on the play that took him out of the game. While I do wish him a speedy recovery, as a Fantasy Football addict, I’ll be taking a look at how this affects Ezekiel Elliott in the world of Fantasy Football.
First things first, the most obvious impact is that this should cause the Cowboys to lean on their ground attack even more than they were planning on. Dak Prescott has looked good this preseason, but keep in mind it’s been against vanilla coverages and that he’s also still only a rookie. Asking him to go out there and win games isn’t a fair expectation for a 4th Round rookie QB.
So for those of you worried that Elliott wouldn’t get the 300+ touches he’d need to be a Top 5 RB this season, your fears are now unfounded. The Cowboys were expecting to go back to the type of offense they ran in 2014, when they threw it just 476 times to 508 runs. If the Cowboys don’t beat that number this year, color just about everybody and their dog surprised. Elliott is a true 3 down workhorse, being able to do everything from running it with power up the middle, bouncing it to the outside when asked to, catching passes out of the backfield and even being a good pass protector. There’s zero reason to take the guy off the field aside to make sure he doesn’t get completely gassed. A rookie workload of 350+ touches is a very real possibility for him, and would almost definitely propel him into the Fantasy Elite from Day 1.
The one pitfall here is that with Prescott starting, it is quite likely the overall quality of Elliott’s touches (Yards-per-Touch, TD%) will take a hit, but Darren McFadden still managed to come close to 1100 Yards in a season with no Romo for 12 games, and a hurt or missing Dez Bryant for pretty much the entire season. Elliott is better in all phases of the game than McFadden is, and is much more durable as well.
Don’t try to overthink things here. Elliott is gonna see a ton of touches with Romo gone, and even when he’s back(current estimates are that Romo is expected to be back around Week 8) will still see plenty. Elliott is most definitely still a 1st Rounder, and is pretty much destined for 1500+ Total Yards and 12+ TDs.
As for the rest of the Dallas’ RBs, while they all should see a boost in their Fantasy value, after all it is both improbable and impractical to load up Elliott with 500+ touches, I find it hard to believe any of them will do enough to warrant more than a late round flier.
Alfred Morris is the most likely candidate to pick up extra carries beyond Elliott. He’s by far the best runner of the group after Elliott, especially with McFadden’s injury and inability to practice. Don’t go into your Draft thinking Morris is in for a huge campaign though. Morris has always been a volume guy. With little value as a receiver, Morris needs a high number of carries to be Fantasy relevant, but even with the loss of Romo, it seems unlikely that he would eclipse the 200 carry mark, particularly with other talented backups around. I’d say numbers in the area of 800 Yards and 5 TDs is a reasonable expectation, making him an okay Flex play for deeper, non-PPR Leagues, and worth late round consideration.
The next candidate for a few more touches this year is Lance Dunbar. He’s a bit of a mixed-bag as a runner, but his receiving prowess is very real, with a career Yards-per-Reception of 10.1 on 52 catches. Considering Elliott’s own ability as a receiver, it seems unlikely he’d get enough targets to warrant Fantasy consideration outside of the deepest of PPR Leagues, but it’s a situation worth keeping your eye on at least.
Darren McFadden is looking like he’s on the roster bubble honestly. He has been hurt(again) and hasn’t been able to practice much. Meanwhile Morris and Darius Jackson have both looked very solid in their preseason outings thus far. I think there’s a good shot he manages to stay on the team though. The Cowboys will want to run as much as possible to take pressure off of Prescott, so McFadden will make for valuable depth. Still, I project him as the 3rd option both running and catching the ball out of the backfield, so keep McFadden off of your Fantasy Radars for now.